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Fishermen ‘betrayed’ over wind farms request urgent parliamentary meeting

320,000 hectares of coastline risks being transformed into “largest oceanic desert in world”

The movement of fishing associations that has emerged from the government’s latest wind farm policy has described today how it feels utterly betrayed.

Speaking to journalists at the end of today’s meeting in Viana do Castelo uniting shipowners’ associations, producers’ organisations and fisheries unions, Francisco Portela Rosa said the movement will be requesting an “urgent” meeting with the parliamentary committee on agriculture and fisheries.

We feel that the government has betrayed the fishing sector” by setting the country on course to have what he believes will be “the largest oceanic desert in the world”, all in the name of renewable energies.

Yes, wind energy will be produced – but at the cost of the livelihoods of traditional fishermen who will be banned from fishing their usual routes, even if the fish remain available.

As reports have explained at stake is the proposal (currently under public consultation) to create five areas for off-shore wind farms near Viana do Castelo, Leixões, Figueira da Foz, Ericeira-Cascais and Sines.

Figueira da Foz is proposed for the largest area for installation of wind farms, with 1,237 sq kms and potential for up to four gigawatts (GW) of capacity, followed by Viana do Castelo (663 sq kms and 2GW), Sines (499 sq kms and 1.5 GW), Leixões (463.36 sq kms and also 1.5 GW) and Ericeira and Sintra/Cascais (300 sq kms and 1 GW).

According to Francisco Portela Rosa, the proposal represents the equivalent of “320,000 football pitches, the entire territory of the Azores and Madeira”.

We would have the largest oceanic desert in the world because nothing survives there apart from wind turbines,” he explains.

At the meeting, which was attended by coastal, local and inshore fishing associations and unions, it was decided to request the “urgent” meeting” in parliament and “from there to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this process” takes place in a different way.

“We have never been against (renewable) energies”, he told Lusa. “But it (the plan) cannot be put the way it is being put. They should have met with the industry before making decisions. We thought that whatever would happen would be done based on a study made by DGRM, which knows all the places where fishing activities take place”.

According to Francisco Portela Rosa, who represents VianaPescas – the cooperative of fish producers from Viana do Castelo, with around 450 members – the sector has always been “available” to study the best way to make nstallation of wind farms at sea and fishing activity compatible.

“It was just (a question) of moving them (wind farms) away from these (fishing) sites. If there was a need for some accommodation we would be available to address and see the best options (…). But we were not listened to, nor even sought out. The director-general was not right in this process and the whole sector is outraged by the attitude he took”, Portela Rosa explains.

The movement is also concerned about the lack of “a socio-economic and environmental impact study” over the creation of five areas for the exploitation of renewable energy at sea.

It cannot be stressed enough that “all the fauna” has “disappeared” from the waters around the Windfloat Atlantic project, the ‘first floating wind farm in continental Europe’…

Portela Rosa believes municipalities must become more involved in this project, before it is too late.

“Local authorities have a great weight in the decision, in the feasibility or even the licensing of this activity. We hope that they have sufficient weight to try to change what needs to be changed,” he said.

He further suggests that “all the Intermunicipal Communities (CIM) affected should receive 20% of the turnover that companies make” with the creation of offshore wind farms.

“The entire population of the coast should have compensation through their electricity bills. I am convinced that we will all be harmed, and that we all need to be compensated. Damage won’t just be the fishing sector,” he warned. 

Source material: Lusa